Orange Democratic Movement leader Raila Odinga has for the second day in a row taken on the government over the manner in which it is handling disputes.
Raila regretted what he termed as deliberate attempts to kill the giant teachers’ union KNUT, an organization he says is the face of organized Labour in Kenya and a symbol of the country’s commitment to International Labour Organization Convention.
Raila in a stern statement directed at the teachers employer-TSC stood with teachers and the union officials, just a day after he expressed his displeasure at the way the two levels of government were handling the crisis in the health sector.
The opposition leader accused TSC of deliberately punishing and subduing teachers in protracted wars and lack of goodwill.
He said it was sad that TSC has refused to undertake a full implementation of the 2017-2021 Comprehensive Bargaining Agreement as demanded by KNUT and sanctioned by the courts and Parliament.
His reaction could have been prompted by reports that thousands of teachers who are KNUT members had been denied promotions and salary increment.
All Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) members had also benefited from the deal agreed four years ago.
“There are also no indications that TSC intends to pay the dues that have been denied members of KNUT. There is equally no indication the TSC will restore KNUT’s membership register to its June 2019 status. TSC has shown no indication to gazette agency fee for KNUT in liaison with the Ministry of Labour. This stand-off benefits no one in the long chain of education stakeholders” said Raila.
He took a swipe at the government for what he termed as dishonesty in resolving grievances affecting workers.
“Through a series of intentional actions, the TSC has disabled and is now enroute to killing KNUT. As at today, membership of KNUT has shrunk from a high of 187,000 to 23,000. Its income has dwindled from Ksh144 million to Ksh15 million against a salary portfolio of Ksh80 million for over 600 workers spread across the country” he said.
He said the standoff between the teachers and the employer had taken a worrying turn, warning that the absence of a strong and credible teachers’ union will be extremely costly to the country.
“The teachers may have been subdued and gone silent as a monumental movement they built from scratch since 1957, and which they took pride in, is brought to its knees. But they are certainly not happy” he said.
He termed efforts to frustrate the union as short-sighted adding that in view of an unusual school year made difficult by a raging pandemic, erratic syllabus coverage and upcoming national exams, it was time the two sides resolved their wrangles.
“In the spirit of the difficult times the country finds itself in against the background of increasing expectation of increased surveillance in our schools and quality learning, KNUT and TSC must return to the table, go through the rulings of the court and resolutions of Parliament and begin afresh journey of good faith that benefits all” he noted.
The former prime minister and African Union High Representative for Infrastructure Development was a fierce critic of the government but toned down since the 2018 handshake.